An Invocation for May Day | Sojourners

An Invocation for May Day

Editor's Note: The following is the text of an invocation being given at the May Day Rally in Madison, Wis.

When we gather at a place like our State Capitol, there are people here from all sorts of religious and non-religious backgrounds.

There are Christians and Jews, Muslims and Buddhists, Hindus and and Bahai, Humanists and people who are pretty sure they believe something, but don’t know exactly how the heck to describe it.

What connects us all this day is a spirit of hospitality, a spirit of compassion and a spirit of justice.

At their worst, religious and other beliefs can isolate us in little camps where we see outsiders as threats. At their best, they call us to hospitality, not only to those we know, but to the strangers in our midst – those who come from other places, speak other languages, seek a new life. At their best, they call us to embrace those who seek to be part of our community.

At their worst, religious and other beliefs can be harsh and legalistic, missing the humanity within everyone we encounter. At their best, they call us to find the reservoirs of compassion that are within each of us.

At their worst, religious and other beliefs bless the status quo. At their best, they call all of us to seek justice in a world where the powerful too often oppress those who are vulnerable.

Isaiah was a Jewish prophet whose words ring true today as he channeled God’s voice in this passage:

 "This is the kind of fast day I'm after:
   to break the chains of injustice,
   to get rid of exploitation in the workplace,
   to free the oppressed, to cancel debts.

"If you get rid of unfair practices,
  if you quit blaming victims,
  if you quit gossiping about other people's sins,
  if you are generous with the hungry
  and if start giving yourselves to the down-and-out,
 then your lives will begin to glow in the darkness.

“You'll be known as those who can fix anything, restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate, make the community livable again.”

Jesus echoed Isaiah in his mission statement 2,000 years at his home synagogue in Nazareth – saying he had come to bring good news to the poor, release to the captives, sight to the blind, and freedom to the oppressed.

So as we begin this rally today, would you join me in the words of the prophet Amos, who said, “Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an everflowing stream.”

As we create a place where all can feel welcome, whatever their country of origin, whatever language they speak, whatever challenges they face, we say:
“Let justice roll.”

As we create a place where compassion embraces those who are left out of the nation’s prosperity, those whose are jobless or hungry or homeless, we say:
“Let justice roll.”

As we create a place where there is justice for all, where no one’s wages are stolen, where the rights to organize are respected, where the great gaps in wealth are narrowed, we say:
“Let justice roll.”


Phil Haslanger, is pastor of Memorial United Church of Christ in Fitchburg, Wis., spoke representing the Interfaith Coalition for Worker Justice.

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